Age Is Just a Number (Especially in My Family)

My younger sister sent me a rather ominous text the day before my 56th birthday last week.

“Enjoy your last day as a 56-year-old.”

“Why?” I responded. “Are you planning on killing me?”

Fortunately for me, she wasn’t. Turns out she thought I was turning 57. I assured her, I was not.

Her birthday is in January, so we’re not quite two-years apart, and since she was already 54, she got confused and made the mistake of assuming I was already 56 and would thus turn 57.

I have to admit, though, there was a split second of doubt as I questioned my age. We Laytons have a long history of making age-related gaffes.

When I was a kid, my dad used to screw up my age when filling out forms for me because we share the same February birthday and sometimes he’d put down his birth year of 1936 as my birth year. When I was six, I remember a medic at the Air Force base hospital glancing down at my paperwork on a clipboard and remarking drolly, “Man, this is one old kid.”

Battle of the Pisces

Decades later, the family met at Carrabba’s on February 25th for a birthday dinner for my dad and me. I was a little peevish because I’d come straight from the warehouse I worked at on the other side of town, got caught in traffic, and by the time I got to the restaurant, the others had forged ahead and were happily eating as I sat there and watched, ravenous and waiting to put in my order.

“So, son,” said the old man smiling as he rolled up spaghetti with his fork, “how does it feel to be 33?

“Gee, I wouldn’t know, Dad, because I’m 34.”

“You’re not 34,” he corrected me. “You’re 33.”

“I think I know how old I am, Dad,” I replied, smug in my certainty and saddened that my father’s memory was getting spotty.

“Look, you’re 33,” he insisted, “because I’m 31 years older than you.”

“Yeah, you’re 65.”


That set him off.

“I AM NOT 65, goddamn it!”

What followed was an intense basic math session involving lots of counting on Layton fingers. And holy shit; Dad was right. I was ONLY 33! What a revelation. Getting an entire year back was worth the embarrassment of being wrong and made for one of the best birthdays ever.

How can you not know your age?

I used to wonder how people in earlier generations, when asked their age, were sometimes unsure and would offer a guestimate, but here I was, with all the date-keeping conveniences of the modern world at my fingertips, and I couldn’t keep straight how many years I’d been on earth. I don’t know how I confused my age, but I think it was because I’d started obsessing about getting older when I was younger. “Next, I’ll be 25, then 30, 35, 40, 60, 75, dead.” Over time, I had only gotten worse. I probably started focusing on turning 34 the minute 33 clocked in for duty. I kind of blame my mom. She’d continually advanced our ages by a year when chastising us. “You’re almost 12 now,” she’d say the day after your eleventh birthday. “You need to stop dropping your clothes on the floor and put them in the hamper.”

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe her habit of age advancement was behind my mom once getting her own age wrong. She was at an Air Force hospital with her friend, Mrs. Zeier, and the doctor was getting ready to examine my mother and asked how old she was, and she responded that she was 40. Mrs. Zeier popped her head in through the examination curtain and said, “No, you’re not. You’re 41!”

So, I can confirm it—I am only 56. Older, though not necessarily any wiser. I would no longer do something spontaneous like driving to Mexico on a spare tire with no backup, as I did when I was 19. No, these days it’s an older person’s version of irresponsibility, like buying extra TVs I don’t need just so I can put them in rooms that I don’t watch TV in, but might want to someday. (Eh, you only live once, right?)

Anyway, here’s to turning 80 next year.

Let me know in the comments if you have humorous, interesting, or weird age-related stories.


8 thoughts on “Age Is Just a Number (Especially in My Family)

  1. First of all, happy birthday!

    I used to wonder about the same thing when I was younger — why grandma can’t tell me exactly how old she is? I understand now that it didn’t matter. I guess what she knew was she was old, and one year more or less made no difference. I feel the same way now about my age.

    I don’t know if it’s funny, it’s definitely annoying though in some conversations that go like this:
    ME: Now that I’m 40, I can’t stand/don’t care about/I would rather…
    SIS: You are 42.
    ME: I’m simply trying to make a point.
    SIS: But you said the wrong age.

    In any case, she was happier when I started saying “Now I’m closer to 45”, or “In a few years, when I’ll be 50”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Basilike!

      Yes, it’s funny how people respond differently to age, isn’t it? I don’t pay attention to it as much these days and keep my birthday pretty low key.

      How are things with you these days? Glad to see we’ve both posted recently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a little more free time now that I finished a translation project, and trying to enjoy it. Also trying to write my own things, continuing with my fairytale collection. And that is pretty much it.

        As for birthdays, I don’t really do much about them either.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Birthdays are bullshit. Just an excuse to celebrate oneself. But I like it that your family can’t even remember the number. Seems fitting. We should make our birthdays another “Mother’s Day”. They did all the work.

    Liked by 1 person

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